Strong Driver – Benefits to Strengthening Exercises
In our twenties, we typically feel invincible, like we can do anything and are unbreakable. Then in our thirties, we may feel a little wear and tear, but for the most part, we are at the peak of our lives. But by age forty, fifty, and sixty, the ability to carry loads of life the way we use to start to show signs of weakness both mentally and physically.
Having Strength means
- Having strength does not mean we are the strongest person in the room.
- Having strength does not mean we can do 100 push-ups in a row.
- Having strength does not mean that we are working out 24/7.
Being strong is an inner game just as much as it is an outer game, and the two often play off each other. As we age, life can often get busier; we have more responsibilities and more things pulling at our focus. They sacrifice exercise, movement, and mental wellness to meet those other needs’ demands for many.
If you feel exhausted, mentally spent, short-tempered, distracted, lacking excitement for life, even showing signs of depression, you don’t need more rest; what you need is to feel strong again.
Whether you are a truck driver, someone who sits at a computer all day, or on your feet doing every task known to man, when you don’t physically feel strong, it impacts how you feel mentally. Which in turn affects how you live your life.
“As a recovering addict and someone who has experienced the depths of depression firsthand; when you use your physical body in a way that helps you feel and build strength, it dramatically impacts your mental strength and state of mind as well. It was yoga that gave me my first glimpse beyond high school gym class at what feeling strong tasted like. And every time I would strike a pose, do a Plank, or hold a Downward Facing-Dog for what felt like 5 minutes, even though I was shaking, it was mentally building strength just as much as it was physically. I kept coming back to yoga. All the poses challenged my body in a way I had never been before; they looked easy but took such a tremendous amount of physical and mental strength. It taught me how to shift my mind away from the weight of the world and into the moment and task at hand. I felt strong. Many think yoga is just stretching or meditating. Still, yoga is a total body experience that many do not fully understand until they participate in the first, second, and even tenth time.”
But why build strength?
Why focus on exercises and movements that build muscle? As we age, we lose three to five percent of our muscle mass each decade after age thirty. But if you aren’t doing anything to maintain what you have, that number only grows, and your body loses muscle, that is. It’s a misconception that to build muscles; you need to lift heavy weights. Research has proven that after age thirty, switching to lighter weights or focusing on resistance training has a more powerful impact on your physical body and decreases the chances of getting injured. So for all my friends out there who are worried about that bum shoulder or aching hip or back, lighten up. There are more ways than heavyweights to build your strength back up.
Don’t forget the impact of feeling physically strong has back on your mental state. Even if the weight feels heavy or the Plank feels shaky, the effect it has on your brain, thoughts, feelings, and outlook on life is nothing short of transformative. Working out regularly for just 20 minutes can boost long-term memory by 10%. It also improves cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain and slows down dementia.
What are Strength Training/Exercises?
Strength training, typically known as weight or resistance training, is an anaerobic exercise that includes the breakdown of glucose (sugar) for energy without oxygen. Strength training plans to assemble and keep up muscle tissue using bodyweight or external obstruction, for example, free-loads, weight machines, or resistance training. Weight training can be utilized to reinforce and build up significant muscles, like the legs, back, glutes, chest, shoulders, arms, and midsection. These muscles are all needed in daily tasks and help reduce pain. Stretching allows our body to release tightness, pulling, and snags in our tissues that could be causing pain and discomfort. But building strength also allows us to reduce pain and discomfort by ensuring the muscles in our body supporting us are at peak performance and up for the job.
I believe taking care of your body is about balance. Not that fancy balance where life is a walk in the park talk. But balance where you give your body a little bit of everything. A few stretches, a dash of cardio-like walking, or even stepping up and down off your step while you are parked all counts. But let’s not forget the need to build and maintain your strength.
When we focus on building up strength and toning our muscles we:
- Make the muscles of the whole body stronger.
- Stimulate bone growth.
- Lower blood sugar level
- Help in maintain weight.
- Improve posture and balance.
- Reduce mental fatigue.
- Improve memory.
- Improve oxygen to the brain through more regular breathing.
Exercises to Build Strength
There are many ways to build up strength no matter what age you are, and when you live over the road as a truck driver, you often have to use what you have. Not every driver has time, means, or ability to pull over and park near Planet Fitness or have a total weight or gym set up in their truck. Many carrying around dumbbells or fancy equipment is not first on their necessity list when packing their vehicle for their next trip.
Planks and Push-Ups on the step of your truck.
Throw on a pair of gloves and use your truck steps or your frame steps on your trailer to set your body up for these quick moves.
Your body weight is an excellent way to maintain strength and it up as well. Plus, moves like this require no extra equipment to travel with, but if you have the equipment, make sure you have a secure toolbox to store it in your truck.
Bicep Curls, Tricep Extensions, and Shoulder Overhead Presses.
You don’t need a zillion moves, just a few good ones to keep you moving strong. If you are traveling and tight on space, swap out an actual hand-weight for two wrenches, water jugs, or something heavy inside your truck. No one said fancy is necessary.
Try to do ten reps of each move one to three times a day. With all that sitting at the wheel, posture and upper body strength and tone can begin to fade. Ensure you have a supportive seat and your steering wheel at the proper height not to cause shoulder or neck pain. But when you aren’t driving, you snuck in a few quick strength-building moves that you can do anywhere in under five minutes.
Resistance Band Training.
There are all sorts of fancy resistance band kits available for purchase, but you don’t need any of them. All you need is a six to eight-foot physical therapy grade resistance band, a door loop, and a loop band to get the job done. I love resistance bands because they are easy to travel with and fit into a purse, bag, or door cubby. Resistance band training is fantastic for building up joint health and maintaining lean muscle mass. As we age, it’s my number one choice for strength training next to body weight.
Next time you are at the truck stop, thread your resistance band through the door loop, close the door, grab each side, and pull down. Get creative, try using one arm and pull, or create a combo and as you pull on the resistance band, add a squat. You can quickly build hip and leg strength with a loop band by placing it around your ankles and walking ten paces forward and back or doing a lap around your truck. Adding in resistance band work a few times a week, even just five minutes, you will notice a difference in posture, strength, and a reduction in joint pain.
No matter what type of strength training you choose to incorporate into your day as a driver, the most important thing is that you add it in. Paying attention to your physical strength and feeding your physical body what it needs will also benefit how you feel mentally. If you want to improve your mental wellness and mental strength, consider adding a few moves to build your physical strength first. Before you know it, your mind and body will feel like they are twenty again but with the wisdom of a forty, fifty, or sixty-year-old.